After a memorable eight-year run, Leamington business owner Abe Fehr has decided to sell the Leamington Flyers.
The Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League Junior ‘B’ team is being purchased from Fehr by a group of five businessmen from across Essex County, including Jason Melo, Dan Jancevski, Cam Crowder, David Halliwill and Craig Mahon. The two sides began discussing the sale of the Flyers about two weeks ago, shortly after the team’s playoff run ended in a seven-game Western Ontario Conference semifinal loss to the St. Thomas Stars. Fehr explained that he has been considering selling the team for about the past year and decided to pursue the sale after finding the quintet of established businessmen.
“Everything came together very quickly,” Fehr said. “I haven’t had the time for it lately and I’ve been wanting to do some other things. I haven’t had the drive for it — running the team takes a lot of work. I’ve found the right group of guys to take over the team.”
The two sides of the agreement are not disclosing the agreed upon sale price of the team, which Fehr noted wasn’t his top priority in finding a buyer.
“Having the team stay in Leamington was always my main concern,” he said.
Fehr and his brother Jake purchased the community-owned team that was operated by a board of directors in 2010 and about six years later, Abe purchased his sibling’s share of the team. In that time, the Flyers made four consecutive appearances in the Western Ontario Conference finals, claiming Weir Cup championships in 2014 — the first in franchise history — and again in 2015. Fehr was nominated as the winner of the Windsor Essex Sports Persons of the Year (WESPY) Ken Dryden Executive Award in 2016.
Fehr explained that while he won’t be a part of the Flyers’ ownership group or board of directors, he’ll continue to be a regular sight at Highbury Canco Arena on Thursday evenings.
“I’ll continue to be a friend and a fan of the Flyers,” said Fehr, who has followed the team since his family moved to Leamington from Alymer, Ont. in 1976. “I will still be a regular at the games, just like I was before.”
The sale of the Flyers to the local group now hinges on approval from the GOJHL and its governing body, the Ontario Hockey Association. Fehr doesn’t anticipate any difficulty in getting the green light from the two organizations, describing the processes as a formality. He hopes to see the sale finalized some time in May of this year.
“I’d like to thanks the fans, the community and the sponsors — it’s been fun to see people enjoying the product,” Fehr said. “The community is proud of the Flyers and it’ll continue to be proud of the team under the new ownership — this group will put a really good product on the ice.”
The five future owners of the Leamington Flyers are a group of cohorts associated through a series of hockey connections. Jancevski, who played NHL hockey with the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning, is the owner of Tim Hortons restaurants including the recently opened location in Harrow. Crowder is the head coach with the Junior C Essex 73’s and a partner with his father Keith Crowder of KS Crowder Enterprises Inc. — owners of the two Tim Hortons branches in Essex and the three in Leamington. Halliwill is the managing partner with his Leamington-based firm Pearsall, Marshall, Halliwill and Seaton LLP, Melo is a managing partner with Collins Barrow Leamington LLP and Mahon a financial advisor with Windsor’s Stewart, Fisher and Associates Inc.
All five members of the group originate from a local junior hockey background. Jancevski, Halliwill and Melo all played for the Junior B Tecumseh Bulldogs before the team relocated to LaSalle, Crowder played for the 73’s and Mahon was a captain with the Ontario Hockey Leagues Windsor Spitfires. Halliwill later acquired a scholarship with Alabama Huntsville and Melo played Major Junior A in the QMJHL.
“We’re really looking forward to this,” said Melo. “Abe did such a great job and we know we can put it all to work and do great things. This wasn’t something we were actively pursuing, but we thought ‘here is a wonderful opportunity, and we’ll take it’ — we’re all committed. We’re familiar with the league, we’ve seen what Abe’s done and we want to continue with that. Once we get a finger on the pulse of the team, we’ll make decisions from there. Whatever it takes to keep this a first class organization, that’s what we’ll do.”